Nurse Erin Stark Uses a Unique Approach to Implement Health IT in a Critical Access Hospital
Nurse Erin Stark is Electronic Medical Records Coordinator at Faulkton Area Medical Center in Faulkton, South Dakota. The medical center, which serves a predominately elderly population, is comprised of two rural health clinics and a critical access hospital (CAH). Under Nurse Stark’s leadership, Faulkton was the first CAH in South Dakota to attest to Stage 1 meaningful use. With the transformation, Faulkton is using Health IT to improve health care quality.
Overcoming Challenges One Step at a Time
When Nurse Stark began to implement EHRs at Faulkton, she and her colleagues were in the midst of getting settled into a brand new hospital and clinic facility. Providers were reluctant to introduce a new technology on top of the many changes already underway. “Providers were strapped for time and wanted to focus on patient care,” explained Nurse Stark. “Nurses would enter patient data into the EHR system and document it in the paper-based chart, but providers would continue to rely predominantly on the paper-based documentation before meeting with patients.”
Despite provider hesitation, Nurse Stark realized that EHR implementation is “not a one person project – everyone on the team needs to be involved.” Working with Faulkton’s nursing staff, who embraced EHRs from the beginning, Nurse Stark took EHR implementation one step at a time. Each month, Nurse Stark would ask Faulkton’s providers to begin using the EHR for an additional task. “After they were comfortable with one new task, we would eliminate the paper documentation for that item and move on to the next part of the paper chart that we could work on eliminating,” explained Nurse Stark. “We started by asking providers to begin reviewing vital signs electronically, and, after a lengthy process, we are now at a point where our providers review entire patient charts electronically.”
Improved Health Care Quality
After implementing the EHR system and achieving meaningful use, Faulkton saw improvements in health care quality. With EHRs, the CAH’s providers are able to generate patient lists to identify and proactively reach out patients who are due for preventive care appointments. For example, Faulkton uses the EHR system to generate lists of patients who are due for tetanus or Hepatitis B vaccinations. With the patient lists in hand, Faulkton can reach out to patients to schedule the appointments, helping to improve health care quality for their patients. To ensure that no patients slip through the cracks, Faulkton also uses clinical decision support rules, which remind providers when patients are due for preventive health screenings and vaccinations. “This is something we could not do without our EHR system,” said Nurse Stark. “Our providers are able to make much more informed decisions and improve health care quality because of the increased access to information.” Both the clinic and hospital are on the same EHR system which allows providers to access patient information no matter where they are in the facility. It is also easier on the staff because there is only one system to learn facility-wide.
As for next steps, Nurse Stark and her colleagues at Faulkton are planning to achieve Stage 1 meaningful use at of the medical center’s outpatient rural health clinics in the near future. The CAH is also well on its way to achieving Stage 2 meaningful use.